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April 14, 2023

Houston Fugitive Placed on FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List

Up to $5 million reward for his capture

On April 14, Director Christopher Wray and the FBI Houston Field Office, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas, announced the addition of Wilver Villegas-Palomino to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for his alleged involvement in narcoterrorism and drug trafficking activities. Villegas-Palomino, aka Carlos El Puerco, is the 530th addition to the list.

The United States Department of State's Narcotics Rewards Program is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Villegas-Palomino.

Villegas-Palomino is a ranking member of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, also known as ELN), a paramilitary narcoterrorism group. He is wanted for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking activities for the ELN Northeastern War Front (NEWF) in the Catatumbo region of Colombia and Venezuela.

A federal arrest warrant was issued for Villegas-Palomino in the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Texas, on February 13, 2020.

Villegas-Palomino and five co-defendants were involved in a 20-year conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Colombia to the United States. Three of those co-defendants were extradited to the U.S. in 2021. It was the first time members of the ELN had been extradited to the U.S. in the group’s nearly 60-year history to face narcoterrorism and drug trafficking charges.

Villegas-Palomino continues to present a grave threat to the community through his cocaine and narco-terrorist empire. Multi-ton quantities of cocaine allegedly produced in his laboratories ultimately end up on U.S. streets, plaguing local communities and driving spikes in violent crime.

“Our commitment to keeping the community safe includes bringing to justice those who fuel and orchestrate the violence in our communities from outside our national borders," said FBI Director Christopher Wray. "Palomino’s placement on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list reinforces our nation’s partnership with Colombia to combat both terrorism and the spread of dangerous narcotics into the U.S. and around the world.”

“Villegas-Palomino is allegedly responsible for numerous kidnappings, ordering assassinations, money laundering, and weapons trafficking,” said James Smith, special agent in charge of the FBI Houston Field Office. “Under his leadership of the ELN Northeastern War Front, his laboratories allegedly contribute to the production of at least 80 percent of the cocaine entering the United States. That cocaine ends up on our streets and plays a major role in the violent crime increases we see in our neighborhoods.”

“ELN is a terrorist organization that finances its deadly operations by trafficking dangerous drugs into Houston,” said Alamdar S. Hamdani, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. “Their drugs destroy lives and communities, and every dollar spent on ELN’s drugs is another dollar that’s spent to threaten our national security. The law enforcement efforts against ELN leader Villegas-Palomino reaffirms our commitment to dismantling and disrupting this very dangerous narco-terrorist group and combatting narco-trafficking.”

This remains an ongoing investigation.

The FBI asks anyone with information concerning Villegas-Palomino to please contact the FBI via WhatsApp (neither a government-operated nor a government-controlled platform) at (281) 630-0330. Individuals may also contact their local FBI office, the nearest American Embassy or Consulate, or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.

Additional information concerning Villegas-Palomino, including his wanted poster in English and Spanish, as well as the FBI’s official list of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives, can be found at fbi.gov/wanted.

The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list was established in March 1950. Since then, 530 fugitives have been placed on the list and 494 fugitives have been apprehended or located—163 of them as a result of citizen cooperation.

Since its inception, Palomino is the seventh fugitive from the FBI Houston Field Office to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The most recent was serial killer Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, who was placed on the list in June 1999. He was removed in July 1999 after he was arrested in Texas thanks to extensive national coverage by news media, which helped track down Resendez-Ramirez, also known as the “Railroad Killer.”